Kim Byung-hyun signs with Japan’s Rakuten

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Kim Byung-hyun signs with Japan’s Rakuten

Korean pitcher Kim Byung-hyun has signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the top-flight Japanese professional baseball league, ending winter-long speculation about his future.

The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club announced late Wednesday that Kim, a former MLB all-star, inked a one-year deal worth 33 million yen ($400,690).

The right-hander with a submarine delivery will compete for the Golden Eagles’ closer job.

“I know the team has high expectations for me, and I want to live up to them,” Kim said in a club statement.

Kim made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999 and over a nine-year MLB career with four clubs, Kim pitched in 394 games and had 86 saves to go along with 54 wins and a 4.42 ERA.

Kim spent 2010 with the Orange County Flyers in the U.S. Golden Baseball League, an independent league not affiliated with MLB. In February 2010, Kim signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants but was released about a month later. In 2009, Kim suffered the same fate with the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting released after signing as a free agent in February that year.

Kim had been linked with Rakuten all offseason, with earlier reports from Japanese sports newspapers claiming that the pitcher botched a tryout with the Golden Eagles because he was out of shape.

Kim will be among six Koreans in the NPB this season, joining Lee Seung-yeop and former MLB pitcher Park Chan-ho of the Orix Buffaloes, Kim Tae-kyun of the Chiba Lotte Marines, Lee Bum-ho of the SoftBank Hawks and Lim Chang-yong of the Yakult Swallows.

Kim Byung-hyun helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series against the New York Yankees in 2001, despite giving up a pair of walk-off home runs in game four and five of the seven-game series. Kim earned his second World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. He remains the only South Korean player with a World Series title to his name.

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